News of the World: a wake-up call for certain Conservatives

Some people in politics can be really funny about evidence… Westminster/media groupies especially so. It is not unknown for some ‘commentators’ to be so far into the role of propagandist that they will accuse personal/political enemies of criminality on nothing more than hearsay while refusing to even acknowledge solid evidence against those they support personally/politically.

(I’m sure I don’t need to name names, but I will say that, no, some apologies will never satisfy… but only while they remain half-hearted and self-serving because you’ve still got your head up your arse, you great big lumbering dipshit.)

That said, I would like to make it clear that the following is only an indicator of guilt, but it is a strong one that follows an emerging pattern; News of the World stories that claim/imply that ‘friends’ or ‘pals’ are the source of a story, when in fact the source of the story is intercepted/illicitly-accessed messages from mobile phones.

The item about Prince William that led to the conviction of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire was just such a story, and the mistake Goodman made was to print something that could only have come from illicit interception of phone messages.

Many other such stories had earlier escaped attention because of a lingering doubt about ‘friends’ and the widely-recognised need to protect sources. On this point, I refer to the words of Gordon Brown:

“… News International who took the freedom of the press as a licence for abuse, who cynically manipulated our support of that vital freedom as their justification, and who then callously used the defence of a free press as the banner under which they marched in step, as I say, with members of the criminal underworld.” – Gordon Brown, 12 July 2011

Basically, if the newspaper claimed or implied that the source was a friend/pal and there was potentially more than one source, all the newspaper had to do was refuse to name the source, and the target was left with nowhere to go. In other words; a blatant abuse of freedom of the press to disguise criminal activity conducted by newspaper staff.

The repeated success of this defensive rampart appears to have led to a situation in the News of the World newsroom especially where confidence was so high that ‘journalists’ would make overt reference to phone calls and text messages in articles resulting from illicitly-sourced leads. This article about Danielle Jones is a stark example, and this Liz Hurley item is typical of the celebrity articles I’ve seen that appear to follow this pattern.

(Psst! A WHOPPER of a celebrity example will follow later today. Think big. No, bigger. OK, now multiply that by three.)

So, with all of that in mind, I hope that this is the moment that some especially pigheaded Tories finally start to come around on this to the point of admitting that they didn’t just get it a little bit wrong because they weren’t aware of recent evidence, but that they got it very, very wrong because they wilfully turned a blind eye to available evidence and didn’t bother looking for further evidence:

News of the World James Major exclusive, 27 November 2005

That challenge may seem odd to the casual reader, but there are some people in this world who are so tribal that even when innocent victims are involved, they won’t come fully on board until one of their own is involved.

I mean, FFS, all of this stuff is just sitting in there in the British Newspaper Library, just waiting to be found, and even now there’s only me and maybe two or three newspapers showing an interest in the material. Where are all these Conservative bloggers who brag about leading the way every chance they get? Instead of asking where the evidence is, perhaps now some of these Tories might finally be convinced to start looking at it… or start looking for it.

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[Note - As with other items recently published on Bloggerheads, this article does not appear in the database of NotW articles recently released by the Telegraph. This is the first time this article has seen the light of day since it was originally published by News of the World in November 2005. This story results from original research I conducted into the friendship between Andy Coulson and Andy Hayman and associated 'hacking' issues, and if you would like to fund more independent research into this story and others like it, please open your virtual wallet and click here.]

EXCLUSIVE: News of the World and the ‘hacking’ of Danielle Jones

Yesterday, the Telegraph published a database of News of the World articles relating to phone/text messages, including the Dowler article I blogged about yesterday morning. Like me, they’ve been doing some research at the British Newspaper Library in Colindale, and I applaud their efforts, but their collection is short one vital article, which enters the public domain this morning for the first time since it was originally published by News of the World on July 15, 2001.

Before you read this article (in the scan/graphic below), I ask that you consider the following:

1. Rebekah Wade/Brooks and Andy Coulson have repeatedly sought to shelter themselves behind a denial that they were not aware of what was going on in their own newsroom. As so many of the smoking guns have been relatively minor/diary pieces in the back pages, this tactic has been largely successful, if a little pyrrhic (i.e. leaving Wade/Brooks and Coulson in a position where they are merely incompetent as far as anybody knows, and not corrupt).

2. Scotland Yard confirm that Danielle Jones’ name and/or other details are included in relevant evidence held by police. This is just one published source:

The investigation into the death of Essex teenager Danielle Jones could be re-examined after the inquiry into the voicemail hacking scandal found that mobile phones linked to her may have been targeted by a private investigator working for the News of the World…. (Chris Bryant) told the Commons yesterday that evidence suggesting Danielle’s phone and others linked to her were targeted by Mulcaire had been discovered by Operation Weeting, the inquiry into phone hacking. Police sources confirmed details of the phones had been found and said the information was being assessed for potential impact on the original murder investigation. – Independent, 7 July 2011

Which leads us neatly to…

3. The prosecution of the killer of Danielle Jones relied a great deal on evidence involving falsified text messages sent from Danielle’s phone by the murderer (context). If staff from News of the World are found to have compromised or undermined this evidence in any way, it could conceivably lead to a challenge against the relevant conviction.

Now, take a look at the scan of the original article (below), which (a) dominated Page 11 of the newspaper, (b) is clearly based on text messages sent to Danielle Jones’ phone, (c) makes that same point ab-so-lute-ly clear in a headline that you would have to blind – or on holiday – to miss, and (d) appears to actually express disappointment that police would not allow the release of further/outgoing messages!

It is also hard to see what ‘public interest’ defence exists for the publication of these texts. It appears to me to be an entirely emotional element that served no other purpose beyond sensationalising an already traumatic event.

We are expected to believe that editors were not aware of any of this, before or after publication. This is a claim I reject, especially now that I have seen this evidence. It is also highly unlikely that Essex Police failed to raise the issue of the sensitivity of text messages with editors, because their concerns about the importance of text messages as evidence are right there in the article approved for publication.

Rebekah Wade/Brooks and/or Andy Coulson cannot have been unaware of this published article, or its origins, or of the dangerous implications. If they were given no specific warning about the use and potential consequences of ‘hacking’ by Essex Police, then serious questions need to be asked about their competence.

[Click here if you would like to fund more independent research into this story and associated tabloid shenanigans.]

Danielle Jones article in News of the World, 16 July 2002

#NotW: ‘hacking’ Liz Hurley

Word reaches me of potentially “serious consequences” for Rupert Murdoch and his empire should anyone turn up evidence of ‘hacking’ aimed at American citizens.

Will Steve Bing do?

See the closing paragraphs on this story, and see if you can guess at the likely source:

News of the World Liz Hurley exclusive - April 7 2002

Actually, I suspect almost this entire story is based on intercepted phone/text messages. What kind of friend would blab to a tabloid about a hospital visit and reward a stalker with this kind of attention?

Not this one, that’s for sure:

Hugh Grant: How I exposed hacking

Yes, please

I’ve just been reminded that now would be a good time to do a little fundraising drive. Two reasons: I’d like to be free to spend more time on this Murdoch implosion, and I’m off on an extended volunteering jaunt later this month.

So, to support Bloggerheads and keep things ticking over, there are three things you can do:

1. Endorse my SEO seminar through your Twitter page or via a link in your blog sidebar (if you’ve read the blog, you know my kung fu is strong and my ethics are sound):
SEO Seminar: Understanding Google, Relevance and Optimisation

2. Send work my way:
I do SEO consultancy work that helps clients handle a lot of challenges themselves and/or get the best out of their staff and/or chosen SEO/content/marketing provider. A breakdown of relevant services is available here, but with most situations the best use of my time (and the best value from the client’s POV) is the seminar/workshop.

3. Just send money:

Cheers all.

News of the World: how Surrey Police responded to the ‘hacking’ of Milly Dowler

Yesterday I featured some fresh evidence on Bloggerheads that suggested News of the World had accessed Robert Thompson’s mobile phone/records in violation of a court order.

Today will be a little bit different in that (a) it is not news that Milly Dowler’s phone was ‘hacked’, and (b) I’m going to be a little more conventional about this post for reasons that should be obvious.

I’m publishing the following – a full scan of the original/relevant article as it appeared in News of the World and some analysis – so you might judge for yourself how likely it is that then-editor (Rebekah Wade, now Rebekah Brooks) and then-deputy-editor (Andy Coulson) did not know about any of it.

Why am I doing this? Because someone should have been arrested or at least cautioned in April 2002, but police declined to act, and it is only public opinion that is driving this forward. Surrey Police, London Metropolitan Police, certain Members of Parliament and even the serving Prime Minister all have (or perhaps in some cases had) a vested interest in letting Rupert Murdoch and his underlings sweep much of this under the carpet. Rebekah Wade/Brooks especially needs to be compelled to face the authorities, but we are, incredibly, still left in a position where her guilt needs to be established in the court of public opinion to some extent before any serious preliminary/investigative action is taken against her by the criminal justice system.

(Whatabouters and Murdoch Apologists: Please keep in mind that this position is entirely distinct from that of Rebekah Wade/Brooks, who in 2002 openly defied police because paedophiles were not punished/”caged” sufficiently in her view, mostly after the criminal justice system had already dealt with them.)

And so, on to the specific article in News of the World that has caused the most outrage. As far as I know, this is the first time it has appeared in the public domain since its original publication:

News of the World's Milly Dowler exclusive of April 14 2002

While it has already been reported that staff from News of the World told Surrey Police about the illegal method(s) used to obtain the material that led to this article (link), it is not until you read a key revelation in that recent report and the article itself that you are likely to realise how much police contributed to the article, and judge how much this action might be interpreted as tacit approval of the methods of the tabloid staff who had broken the law in pursuit of this lead:

It was Surrey detectives who established that the call was not intended for Milly Dowler. – Guardian, 4 July 2011

Police believe the sick hoaxer called into a recruitment agency… It is thought the hoaxer even gave the agency Milly’s real phone number. Police believe she may have got it by gaining the trust of people who knew the schoolgirl… The twisted creature also contacted TV’s Crimewatch programme, claiming to be Milly. Police say the hoaxer has hampered the investigation and previous high-profile enquiries… A senior officer involved in the hunt said last night: “Our inquiries and those of other forces have been plagued by a professional hoaxer who has much experience of the practices of police and investigation methods. The chances are extremely high that the individual concerned is a rather disturbed lady who needs care. – News of the World, 14 April 2002

I’m sensing some past history here, and some frustration that more couldn’t be done to control this reckless fantasist (hey, I can relate). That might explain some of this content offered up by police. Then again, perhaps it was more a case of police deciding to address matters with a coded message to the editor of News of the World or (more likely, in my view) much of the lecture above was aimed at the unnamed hoaxer and Rebekah Wade, and only half of it made it to print in the form of an attack on the hoaxer. (This is what tabloid scum do; they selectively edit reality, attempting to shape it to their will, and act in monstrous ways while screaming; “Look out! Behind you! MONSTER!!!!”)

Whatever the reason(s) for this material being offered to the newspaper, News of the World were in no position to publish a lecture about anybody hampering this investigation or any other. This same newspaper openly defied police in the pursuit of dozens of alleged paedophiles, complicating all sorts of police procedures and potential prosecutions (more). Later, they also hired the man who deleted messages sent to Milly Dowler’s phone (in pursuit of more ‘scoops’, i.e. money), thereby leading us to the tipping point in this scandal; the public realisation that this gave the family false hope that the then-missing girl was alive (more).

Here I will draw your attention to the heart-breaking appeal under the article, featuring Milly Dowler’s mother desperately clinging to the hope that her daughter was still alive and had perhaps run away. News of the World went on to repeatedly exploit Milly Dowler’s family in a similar fashion for weeks on the back of false hope that they themselves had generated:

The Dowler family then granted an exclusive interview to the News of the World in which they talked about their hope, quite unaware that it had been falsely kindled by the newspaper’s own intervention. Sally Dowler told the paper: “If Milly walked through the door, I don’t think we’d be able to speak. We’d just weep tears of joy and give her a great big hug.” – Guardian, 4 July 2011

While this article and the appeal underneath it may have appeared all the way back on Page 30, it should not have escaped the attention of a worthy editor, because it is a big part of the editor’s job to protect the newspaper, staff and owners by ensuring that all claims (of criminality especially) are properly sourced. However, this is a Murdoch newspaper and I have learned from personal experience that Murdoch journalists and editors do not see a problem in a poorly-sourced claim if they don’t name the target.

(SIDEBAR: Take a bow, Camilla Long of the Sunday Times, who stated as fact that Conservative MP Nadine Dorries had a stalker and rather bravely backed this up with an assertion that police were involved… without actually checking any of the detail with police, who would have told her that Dorries does not have a stalker, or even a harasser. Camilla Long and her editor later defended themselves on the basis that no name was published alongside the accusation, and it appears that the thoroughly useless PCC are prepared to side with them.)

With libel law and press regulation being in the sorry state it’s in, it is entirely feasible that a lazy editor would look at a story like this and not care about the source, because the paper was effectively shielded against any complaint the subject/target could hope to make about it.

However, I do not think it reasonable to believe that police were made aware of this illegal act involving News of the World staff and did not at least alert/warn the editor about this activity, the illegality of same and the potential impact on the investigation into Milly Dowler’s disappearance. That’s why I asked Surrey Police if they had discussed this matter with editors of that newspaper. Here’s my question, and their response:

My question:

Did the investigating officers discuss this hacking matter with editors at News of the World in an effort to at least warn them on the potential consequences of this kind of behaviour? Are you able to name which editors were warned, if any?

The ‘answer’ from Surrey Police:

The Metropolitan Police are currently investigating allegations of phone hacking and therefore it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time.

From this point on, the argument is entirely circular; police will not comment on evidence that might implicate Rebekah Wade/Brooks, but neither will they act against her with any conviction (pun intended) while the public remain in doubt about the extent of her awareness/involvement. It has taken a week of extraordinary outrage to bring us to the point where she might be willing to take part in a police interview, but only as a witness, and not a suspect. It is blindingly obvious to all concerned that she enjoys this privilege because she remains under the protection of Rupert Murdoch.

The only way to break the circle is go public with the available evidence in an effort to convince public servants to finally serve the public (i.e. rather than cower before a powerful foreign media owner).

Tomorrow, I will publish a further scan of an article obviously involving intercepted text messages that cannot have escaped the attention of the police, or the editor(s) of News of the World.

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UPDATE (14 Oct 2011) – Police were given evidence in 2002 that News of the World had access to illegally obtained messages from Milly Dowler’s phone – but did nothing about it

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UPDATE (24 Jan 2012) – Phone hacking: News of the World journalists lied to Milly Dowler police

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NEW POST (26 Jan 2012) – News of the World: 110% certainty, the remainder fact

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CSI: #NotW (UPDATED: the hacking of Robert Thompson)

There’s a lot of coverage about and fresh revelations are emerging left, right and centre, so I wanted to make this article about Robert Thompson, News of the World, and Murdochian antics a bit different. That’s why I turned it into a comic strip starring some pretend scientists from Miami. Enjoy.

csi: notw - Robert Thompson

In other news, Nadine Dorries is making some wild claims in an effort to convince us that she’s part of the story, while Andy Hayman has been issuing some theatrical denials to convince us that he’s not.

Apropos of nothing, here are two articles from my vaults about Andy Coulson, the former tabloid editor who dreamed of greater power, and Andy Hayman, the former police officer who dreamed of one day being a journalist:

Andy Coulson and Andy Hayman: Friends
Andy Coulson: innocent until proven guilty

Oh, and if you’re looking for news that doesn’t even remotely involve the implosion of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, then I can recommend this post about Christopher McGrath and sock puppetry and/or this post about ‘David Rose’ and sock puppetry. Back soon(ish) with some more that I’ve found by browsing through News of the World archives at Colindale.

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UPDATE (28 Aug, 2011) – Metro – James Bulger’s killer Robert Thompson ‘had phone hacked by NOTW’: Metropolitan Police officers working on Operation Weeting have contacted Thompson to let him know his details were found in documents they examined as part of the phone hacking investigation. Detectives believe Thompson and people close to him may have had their voicemail intercepted by an investigator working for the tabloid, reports the Sunday Times.

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UPDATE (20 Feb, 2012) – Telegraph – Bulger killer could be in line for compensation from News of the WorldLawyers acting for Robert Thompson, 29, have informed Scotland Yard that they plan to take legal action that could see the killer paid tens of thousands of pounds in compensation. The action was started after the team from Operation Weeting informed Thomson that his voice mails had been targeted between 2002 and 2007… It is thought that Thompson was informed by the Operation Weeting team in August last year that they had uncovered evidence that his phone had been hacked on several occasions after 2002. References to him were found in notebooks seized from Glenn Mulcaire, 41, a private investigator working for the News of the World who was jailed in January 2007 for intercepting the phone calls of royal aides.

Outrage about compensation going to a convicted killer appears to be overshadowing the really important questions here (including ‘When will we see someone charged with contempt of court?’):

Hacked Off – If a Bulger killer was hacked, how did Mulcaire get his top secret number?: Robert Thompson was living under a secret and protected identity when Glenn Mulcaire acquired his mobile number, apparently in 2002. He had been released from detention only months earlier and, after many threats to his life, was one of the handful of people in the whole country most at risk from violent attack. How did the News of the World penetrate the official security around him? Very few people can have known both his phone number and his real identity, and all of them must have been in positions of trust. The Mirror and the Telegraph don’t seem to be interested in whether one of these people betrayed that trust, or indeed in whether money changed hands. And there are other questions, which may be more alarming still. If Mulcaire could get through that protective barrier, who else could, was anybody else hacked, and were people placed in danger?

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Rebekah Brooks/Wade & James Murdoch: BLAST RADIUS

Joel Veitch, the creator of Nick Griffin: “I’m scum and I’m a racist”, offers us his take on the still-unfolding Murdoch scandal. Share and enjoy!

Rebekah Brooks/Wade & James Murdoch: BLAST RADIUS

(Psst! If you’re into words and stuff, this article by septicisle would be my pick for post of the day.)

Page 3 message to police

See if you can detect any hidden meaning in today’s Page 3.

From what I can see, it makes oblique reference to tonight’s 2011 Police Bravery Awards (“Hosted in partnership with The Sun”) and may or may not have some bearing on the embattled position of the former Sun and News of the World editor Rebekah Wade/Brooks. Or am I reading too much into it?

Is Rebekah Brooks really the right person to investigate Rebekah Wade?

I’m sure I don’t need to bring you up to speed and explain what this scandal is about, so let’s just open with Rupert Murdoch’s position, as stated yesterday:

“I have made clear that our company must fully and proactively co-operate with the police in all investigations and that is exactly what News International has been doing and will continue to do under Rebekah Brooks’s leadership.” – Rupert Murdoch, from a statement released 6 July 2011

I’m sure you can think of one or two reasons why Rebekah Brooks (formerly Rebekah Wade) is the wrong person to be in overall charge of this investigation into her own editorship, but I invite you to consider one other; her attitude toward police/co-operation.

The following is an excerpt from an editorial by Rebekah Wade at a peak in her 2000 campaign to ‘name and shame’ paedophiles:

“Now, because we have suspended our naming of sex offenders, our opponents are trying to suggest that we have backed down. They are wrong. We took the decision to suspend naming of paedophiles on FRIDAY – when the authorities agreed to back our fight for Sarah’s Law.” – Rebekah Wade, News of the World editorial, 6 August 2000

Note that her clearly stated position is that she is only co-operating because/while the police back her politically.

After this editorial, she proceeded to name and shame paedophiles intermittently anyway, and the following is from a relevant editorial anticipating a poor reaction from the police.

“Now the police may bleat that by naming the sinister Santa of Hull we have hindered their job. That is not our intention and again we beg readers not to take the laws into their own hands.” – Rebekah Wade, News of the World editorial, 3 December 2000

Note how respectfully she treats police and their concerns. Note also how confident she is that she is in control of her mob. (Psst!)

A similar attitude is shown to privacy orders applying to the killers of James Bulger:

“While forbidden from seeking information about them, this newspaper will not be alone in receiving such information. Last week, for example, we were able to disclose how the youths were being prepared for re-entry into society at a cost of £1.5 million to the taxpayer.” – Rebekah Wade, News of the World editorial, 24 June 2001

This is the Rebekah Brooke/Wade version of co-operation with police.

Rebekah Brooks/Wade acted in the way she did back then because she was certain she was in the right and confident that her readers would behave responsibly… just as she is today* certain of her own innocence and confident about the integrity of her old newsroom team.

So, to close, let’s have another look at Murdoch’s position, and see how it stacks up now:

“I have made clear that our company must fully and proactively co-operate with the police in all investigations and that is exactly what News International has been doing and will continue to do under Rebekah Brooks’s leadership.” – Rupert Murdoch, from a statement released 6 July 2011

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[*If we are to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she is not lying.]

Boycott Murdoch: #NOTW

I can’t imagine there’ll be much to be proud of in the upcoming issue of News of the World (see: ‘Missing Milly Dowler’s voicemail was hacked’), especially if Rebekah Brooks/Wade is allowed to continue as chief executive at News International, an organisation that has pledged to investigate illegal acts undertaken under her editorship… illegal acts undertaken by a man who was paid the kind of money most editors make it their business to know about.

So I have been going through this list of recent NotW advertisers and making a personal short list based on my own shopping habits. Where I am a customer, I ask the company the following question via the email address for their press or customer relations office (which is typically one of the few in the public domain):

Simple question: Will you be advertising in the next issue of News of the World (10 July 2011)?

If they do intend to advertise or won’t say, I will go on to advise them of my intentions (and reasons) regarding a boycott of their company (for a period that will be influenced substantially by their attitude to the query).

Mine is a short list, but my intention to boycott any brand that subsequently advertises in the 10 July issue is sincere, and I think realistic and reasonable.

It should be abundantly clear that no good can come of any commercial association with this upcoming issue of News of the World when News International refuse to even acknowledge Rebekah Brooks’ ultimate responsibility (i.e. according to standards she demands from others). There can be no genuine contrition without Brooks meeting up to her own damn standards.